Running is great for both the body and mind. Not only is it a great means of burning calories and keeping our weight down, the process of running also releases endorphins to the rest of the body, making you feel naturally happy after a run. It’s great for you mentally too, triggering receptors in the brain that make it easier to focus on work and other normally challenging tasks. But while running, either competitively or for fun is beneficial to your health, many runners eventually encounter challenges to their physical well being.
According to the Chiropractic Association of Ireland (CAI), as the number of participants in recreational and competitive running continues to increase, so does the number of people who need treatment for running-associated injuries. The majority of running injuries generally fit into two groups; traumatic injury, such as a slip, fall, or collision or repetitive stress/overuse injury.
The following is an overview of the typical running injuries that a Chiropractor treats, outlining cause, symptoms and prevention. To treat running injuries a Chiropractor will be carry out foot, knee, hip and pelvis assessment and alignment where necessary.
Shin splints, a repetitive stress/overuse injury, are one of the most common running injuries that Chiropractors treat. They are essentially the strain of a muscle and its attachment to the tibia and are medically known as tenoperiostitis or traction periostitis.
Common causes of shin splints are faulty posture, training errors (too far, too fast, too soon), changes in routine, inappropriate shoes, long distances, hills, hard/uneven surfaces, fallen arches, inadequate warm-up, over pronation/under controlled pronation, exercising on unyielding surfaces and over training
Symptoms to look out for include pain or discomfort on the front, inside and/or outside surface of the shin bone or directly on the shin bone.
Preventative measures that can be taken include good shoes with shock absorbing features, heel toe landing for the minimum impact, calf stretches and professionally fitted custom made orthotics. Sports taping will also help.
Stress fractures are small fractures that occur due to excessive stress (overuse of the bone) or an increase in intensity or distance running, resulting in gradual breakdown of the bone. Weakened bones, due to old injuries or other conditions are much more susceptible to stress fractures because they are unable to handle the new stresses applied to them. Athletes with compromised bone density must be very careful when increasing their work load.
This type of running injury can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages and can be confused with shin splints. Healing usually requires six to eight weeks of rest.
For stress fractures pain occurs especially in the foot and lower leg becoming more intense with weight bearing activity. X-rays may appear negative initially but fractures become visible up to two weeks after the initial injury so it’s important to keep an eye on it.
Plantar Fasciitis is usually characterised by pain in the area of the heel bone and the sole of the foot. Proper assessment of the foot is essential as Plantar Fasciitis pain mirrors the pain associated with a bone spur at the heel of the foot. It is a condition that develops over time due to joint and muscle imbalances of the lower leg and foot.
Symptoms to look out for include pain in a specific area on the bottom of the foot towards the heel, possibly radiating towards the ball of the foot. The foot feels tender early in the morning and becomes less painful with movement, often associated with pronation and a fallen arch.
Treatment includes stretching and strengthening the calf muscle as well as improving the balance and strength of the small muscles that make up the sole of the foot. In some cases the patient may require orthotics to control improper foot movements.
Prevention includes regular stretching of the calf and Achilles tendon, and it’s also important that the feet are assessed for any biomechanical problems.
Runners Knee essentially means the softening of the cartilage of the knee cap. Portions of the cartilage may then be under either too much or too little pressure which may result in cartilage deterioration at the inner part of the knee cap.
Usual symptoms of this running injury include pain directly under the kneecap, or the surrounding area. Pain can be worsened by activities, especially climbing, squatting or running, but can also be worse after prolonged periods of sitting with knees bent. A feeling of giving way can occur which is caused by the inhibition of muscle contraction in response to pain.
Runner’s knee generally responds well with biomechanical evaluation and an orthotic, when indicated.
The Achilles tendon is the connection between the heel and the most powerful muscle group in the body, the calf. Unfortunately it is a very common site for a disabling injury.
With this type of injury its imperative that you get it treated immediately. If your Achilles tendon is sore do not run through the pain as this could result in a chronic injury
Symptoms are usually described as diffuse pain in or around the back of the ankle (from the calf to the heel). The pain is aggravated by activity, especially uphill running or climbing stairs, and relieved somewhat by wearing higher-heeled shoes or boots
Again, it is also important that the feet are assessed for any biomechanical problems. Orthotics or insoles may also be prescribed and the use of soft heel-lifts are effective as part of chiropractic treatment.
If you’ve sustained an injury, the best course of action is to see a professional and until you get the chance to do so remember the acronym PRICE:
P Protect injury to prevent additional damage
R Rest the injured area
I Ice injury to abate swelling, bleeding, muscle spasm, and pain
C Compress injury
E Elevate the injury, particularly when dealing with ankles and knees
A Chiropractor can give expert advice and management to insure that your injury will recover in the best possible way. Chiropractors use gentle, specific manipulation and adjustment techniques to free stiff joints, restore normal movement and remove spinal irritation. Treatment is generally painless, although some short-term discomfort may sometimes be felt around the injured area.
For a full list of Chiropractors in your area please visit www.chiropractic.ie